I already posted my non-spoilers review, now it’s time for the Spoilers one! I’m going to also try to go through the whole film real quick point by point, so you can follow my reasoning even if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet. Or if you don’t want to see it, but you want to know what happened. (second half through to the ending available here)
Like Watchmen, the best part of this film is the opening song montage. We follow our hero and heroine, Sidharth and Katrina, from birth to the present day. And I find what it does with Katrina much more interesting, and much more relevant to the later film, than what it does to Sidharth. Interesting, considering Sidharth is technically the main character. The film was written and directed by a woman, although it has a male hero, and sometimes it kind of feels like the goal was not so much for the hero to learn about himself, as to show the audience how this particular kind of a person can be blind to the problems of women.
(Such a good opening! And then the rest of the film happens)
Right, so, the opening montage starts in 1986 when they are both born, Sidharth in Delhi and Katrina in London to a white mother and desi father. They both grow up as solitary kids, Sidharth by choice and Katrina by situation. While Sidharth resists joining a crowded children’s party, Katrina is alone, pouring tea for her dolls in a chilly London park. Katrina’s parents, Ram Kapoor and some white lady who did a really good job, look at her and then each other, and then there is a plane landing in India.
Katrina is shy her first day of school, and little Sidharth gives her a candy and takes her hand. Little Sidharth is chased and teased by the other kids, little Katrina comforts him. Sidharth’s father dies, his mother mourns, and Katrina holds his hand. Sidharth is part of Katrina’s family, joining them in a prayer service, and falls asleep, Katrina nudges him awake. Teenage Sidharth brings a bouquet of flowers to Katrina and she starts sneezing immediately while he throws them away. Sidharth shows up with a book for her birthday, just in time to see the car her father has given her, and hides the book. The two of them sit together on a swing and stare into each other’s eyes. Katrina takes his hand and draws him into an empty outhouse, implication being sex.
I may have missed a few moments from the song, but overall I love it! It establishes right away the relationship conflicts that will carry through the whole film. Katrina is half white and half India, which isn’t a conflict in itself, but because of her lonely experience as a child and the way her parents have embraced their Indian identity since returning, it makes her extra committed to India, while Sidharth is more neutral. Sidharth is always awkward and scared of others, probably exacerbated by his father’s death, and Katrina is always the one who takes the lead, who comforts him, who shows him what to do. Katrina is richer than him and spoiled by her parents, and it makes Sidharth feel inadequate. None of these are big problems, and central to the song is that the two of them are fine when it is just the two of them. But when other people, or other considerations, get involved, then it can go wrong.
(totally different edit that in the film, but same kind of vibe)
Montage over, in present day, Sidharth is teaching a class. It’s very Indiana Jones, all the girls are sighing and dreamy over him. To the point where, when he finishes his lecture, they ask him to give a for more examples and stay all dreamy watching him work the blackboard. But, this makes him late!!! He finally finishes and checks the time and runs out, to run into a gallery show where Katrina is talking to the press. He knocks over a sign, making a huge clatter just as she is making her main point. She frowns at him.
At dinner, she is still angry, and he tickles her nose with a flower, to make her sneeze and cheer her up (a cool reference back to that song we just saw). He apologizes, says he got caught up in class and it made him “a little” late. She points out he was 2 hours late. He apologizes again, the waiter comes by and she orders for him, butter chicken with extra butter on the side. He mentions something about how they are like an old married couple, and Katrina leaps on that, saying yes, they are! And they want the same things in life! A home, two or three kids, a happy life, a happy….. She waits for him to finish the thought, and when he doesn’t finally says herself “wife! A happy wife! Me!”
I’m usually pretty harsh on Kat, but she does a good job with this speech. She is clearly unhappy being the one to propose, but is still ready to do it, and deal with it cheerfully. It sets the tone for the whole relationship, Katrina would always rather that Sidharth took the lead on these things, but she is used to being the one to make decisions, to move their relationship forward, and she doesn’t dwell on the unfairness of it.
Sidharth hesitates, and Katrina flinches a little, then plows ahead, saying he can take a day to think about it. Or a week. However long he needs. Sidharth, finally, says okay.
And then, Ram Kapoor! He is definitely the funnest part of this movie. He sits in his big office with a big smile and asks Sidharth how he will take care of his daughter. Sidharth starts listing off how he has a good job and they know each other. Ram Kapoor cuts him off and asks if he loves her. Sidharth mumbles something, and Ram immediately embraces him and announces he will throw them a HUGE wedding!!! With SNOW!
And cool cut, we go straight to the perspective of the wedding videographer. He is going around asking for best wishes for the couple. And we quickly learn a little more background. Katrina’s mother loves India, and loves Sidharth and is very excited about the wedding. Sidharth’s mother is delighted to finally have a “daughter”. Sidharth’s younger brother is delighted to be at a wedding and flirt with everyone. And Sidharth is a little over-whelmed by it all.
There are a lot of little things in both these sequences, the wedding video and the Sidharth and Ram meeting, that I thought would come up again later in more depth. They never really did, but at the same time, if you notice them, they also provide a little extra tone to scenes later, almost like the director was planning to explore them and then forgot. Or ran out of time. For instance, Ram asks Sidharth to call him “Papa”, not “uncle” as he has called him his whole life. Sidharth flinches a little, and on the surface it could be just about Ram’s over-whelming personality. But also, remember that Sidharth’s father had died when he was a child. Whether or not he is consciously aware of it, that might be why he is resisting not just calling him “Papa”, but all his efforts at support and welcome into the family. And Ram’s coming on of the tough father may not just be an act, or going through the formalities. He may have already seen that Sidharth isn’t really into this relationship in the same way Katrina is, and is trying to sniff around and make sure their problems are solvable.
In the same way, there are little clues dropped that Sidharth’s mother feels closer to Katrina than her own son, that Sidharth’s younger brother has never really been given respect or treated as an equal to Sidharth, that Katrina’s mother is warm and loving but Katrina may still want to leap onto Sidharth and his family as a way of re-affirming her Indian identity. All of that is very interesting, and is never really explored, but is also never really contradicted by anything that happens later. This is what I am saying about it being maybe too little plot. I wish there had been time to explore all of this a little more.
Oh right, wedding! This stuff is just fun. Like Ram gives Sidharth a grain of rice, which he just sort of brushes off his fingers thinking it was a blessing or something, and then finds out it was worth thousands of crores, and had the entire Hanuman chalisa written on it! And has to pick up hundreds of grains of rice and then look at them with a magnifying glass late into the night.
Sidharth is increasingly stressed, and shutting people out. He avoids his mother, his brother, only Katrina seems able to make him comfortable, pulling him into a closet to get him to loosen up and get out of himself, trying to pull him into a song with everyone else, and finally when she realizes he just can’t handle it anymore, taking him off by themselves.
(Isn’t this interesting? They completely re-edited the song for the promo, putting in Sidharth dancing and joining in the fun, whereas in the film he just stands and watches the whole time)
Which is when it goes wrong, even when it is just the two of them. Katrina becomes yet another person he feels is putting too much on him, when she shows him the new apartment her father bought for them. And Sidharth Freaks. Out.
For the past 20 minutes, we’ve been seeing how their relationship had a few flaws, but this is the first time these flaws turned into actual cracks. In my non-spoiler review, I talked about how they felt more like an old married couple going through a mid-life crisis than a couple getting married. In this scene, when Sidharth asked by what right Katrina got this apartment, Katrina says she always makes the decisions, “I’ve been making the decisions for both of us since we were 8 years old!” And maybe when they were 8, or even teenagers, it wasn’t bad that Katrina always took the lead and Sidharth took her a little for granted. But now it’s been 22 years of her doing everything and Sidharth doing nothing, and it has reached a breaking point. Not Katrina getting tired of it all, but Sidharth getting so blinded that he has lost track of how they got there. This isn’t 22 years of Katrina being pushy, it’s him being passive that has gotten them to this place. And putting the blame on her for everything is not going to help.
Oh, and Sidharth got a phone call during the wedding prep telling him that he got his dream job, but it means he has to move to Cambridge. That’s the other reason for the fight, that Katrina really really doesn’t want to move to Cambridge. She tried it, she hates it there, she wants to stay in India. It ends with Katrina storming out and announcing she is calling off the wedding unless Sidharth stops her right now, and Sidharth decides to drink a whole bottle of champagne and fall asleep.
And when he wakes up, it’s 10 days later and he’s in Bangkok! There’s some okay physical comedy here when he tries to run out of the hotel room and figure out what happened. Also, he sees a woman in his bed, just the back of her head, and is terrified trying to put it all together. And then, finally, it is revealed to be Katrina! If the trailers hadn’t spoiled the whole thing, this would have been a great reveal, that the audience and Sidharth both think he got black out drunk and slept with some random stranger, but in fact it was just Katrina!
And then, happy honeymoon song! Only, just like in the wedding song, Katrina has to do all the work. She sings to him, she dances for him, and, finally, he relaxes and joins in. But only because she forces it, just like she has had to force every other part of their relationship. And in the end, after the song, she is the first to say “I love you”. And when he responds, she asks him “why?” and all he says is “you’re my wife.” And she sort of smiles, but it isn’t a completely happy smile.
(I have these exact shorts. Only, I don’t look anything like Katrina in them)
Sidharth falls asleep again, and this time wakes up to a yelling voice. And, finally, a pillow to the face. He’s in a strange room, Katrina is furious, and yelling. And, he finally notices, pregnant! Sidharth takes a bit to orient himself, helped along by the row of photos on the wall as he stumbles down the stairs after Katrina. They were married, they went on their honeymoon, and so on. And then he steps outside, to discover it is freezing cold, because they are in Cambridge! He walks right past the car because, of course, he doesn’t know what it looks like. And he can’t find the way through the streets. Until finally, Katrina makes him change places so she can drive herself. She also says, for the first time “there are two kinds of people in live, drivers and passengers! And you are a passenger!”
They get to the hospital, and Sidharth seems to have finally gotten things a little under control. He is pushing the wheelchair and asking to be checked in. And then, foom! THE ENTIRE FAMILY DESCENDS!!! Sidharth’s mother, both of Katrina’s parents, Sidharth’s little brother and his non-Desi girlfriend (Thai, maybe?), all there! They sweep Katrina off with them, and Sidharth is left to linger behind. He finds an empty room with a white board and starts making notes on the board trying to figure out what is happening. A doctor comes in, and he explains what is happening, only of course it’s not a doctor, it’s a patient pretending to be a doctor. ha ha, never seen that before (sarcasm). He then tells a real doctor the same thing, they take him off for tests, and can’t find anything wrong. Finally, Sidharth wanders back to the maternity ward and is looking at newborns when his mother finds him. And tells him that his father felt the same way, terrified, before Sidharth was born. This is one of those moments that feel like a missed opportunity. It’s a fine conversation, but it would have been so much more powerful if it had picked up on Sidharth’s position as a fatherless-father, or on his mother’s position as a grandmother whose husband will never see their grandchild. Or on anything about Katrina’s position as the mother of said child, and also halfwhite, and also someone Sidharth’s mother has known since she was a child. Instead of just the usual “fatherhood changes you” pablum.
Sidharth finally goes back into the delivery room to briefly try to help Katrina, and then get out as soon as she orders him. In the hallway of the hospital, he sees in the distance, the same priest who was at their wedding! He gave him a lecture about learning to give up on logic and have trust and faith before the marriage. And then tied a sacred red thread around his wrist, which Sidharth just now notices is still on his wrist.
Sidharth runs after the priest, who gives him some general words of wisdom about learning to appreciate what he has, the present, the moments. Sidharth takes that as “don’t be afraid of the future, because now you have seen it and it is wonderful”. He also takes the priest’s words about “it’s all in your hands” to mean that all Sidharth has to do is break the red thread, and he will be back to the “present”. Only, just as Sidharth learns this, his mother arrives, holding his newborn son. She hands him to Sidharth, he is immediately besotted and forgets everything else.
Later, he and Katrina both stare at the baby and laugh about how it has her eyes, but his nose. And Katrina asks again if she loves him, he says yes, she asks why, and he says “because you are my wife and the mother of my child.” And she gives that same not-quite-happy smile.
I was so mad at Sidharth during this whole sequence! He seemed to be seeing Katrina’s labor as just an inconvenience for him, like his time travel was a bigger mystery and problem than her life threatening medical procedure. Plus, he was always so happy to give up responsibility. First to her, when she drove the car. Then to their family, as soon as they showed up at the hospital. And then even in the delivery room, she said one little thing about throwing him out, and he left, leaving both mothers there to help her instead.
These are the same kind of little cracks we saw in that argument that started this, on their honeymoon when she had to sing him into being present and with her. He isn’t a “bad” guy, he just doesn’t want to do the work if he doesn’t absolutely have to. He leaves it up to Katrina to fix things, and when she’s unavailable (because she’s in labor) he leaves it to their family to clean up their mistakes.
Although, he is a hot guy, which goes a long way with me. And he is still hot when he wakes up this time, with shaggier hair and a bear and a little grey at the temples. He is in a lecture room and realizes he must be teaching a class. He looks for the blackboard, and asks a student to right the date on it (he’s learning, getting faster at figuring out how to find the info he needs), but the class laughs because they don’t use blackboards anymore!
The future is very nicely done. Big clear computer screens instead of laptops, self-driving cars, little dyed bits in people’s hair, but otherwise more or less like it is now. Much better than if they’d had flying cars or anything ridiculous like that.
Sidharth cancels class, because he has no idea what he is teaching, and then runs across campus. He sees his mentor, the one who called him at the wedding, and rushes over to tell him how much he loves his work. And how young he looks compared to his picture! I thought that was a bit of a red herring, that his mentor never seems to age in all these sequences, so maybe he is the “magical” one. But then the Pandit is explicitly the magical one? So either this is a really subtle clue that it is the mentor math professor all along, or they just didn’t want to bother making up one more actor with old age make-up.
Sidharth keeps running and is almost hit by a car. The driver gets out, a young kid with crazy died hair, and Sidharth yells at him. The driver yells back and calls him “Dad” and says that they are late, today of all days! Sidharth immediately is fascinated with him, as any father would be with a son he is just meeting. He tries to pick up clues, figures out that he isn’t that close to his son, has been absent from his life, and maybe because of that his son is now skipping college entrance exams and has dye in his hair. Sidharth tries to make a connection, but before he can, they pull up at a civil court building. Sidharth immediately assumes that his son is getting married. He is concerned that he is so young, but does his best to be supportive! And he is thrilled to see his mother their as well. And Katrina! They seem less enthusiastic, but Sidharth sets that down to them not approving of the marriage. Until the judge announces the divorce decree, between Sidharth and Katrina. The sound goes out, and Sidharth’s voice goes away as you see him yelling, and Katrina ignoring him, as she signs the papers and walks out.
And, sad song! Sidharth wanders around Cambridge (at least, it’s supposed to be Cambridge. Did they film on location?). He sees things that all look slightly off because it is the future, and also has visions of Katrina, just out of his grasp.
(Is this Cambridge? I’ve been there once when I was 14, and don’t exactly remember it that well)
Finally, he goes home and walks up the same stairs, to see a new arrangement of family pictures, Katrina and him and a little boy and girl. And he goes to his room and prays “please take me back to when she was mine and we were happy. please please please.” and then removes the red thread.
And, interval!!! I think? I don’t remember exactly. Anyway, it’s a good breaking point and I want to take a nap.